This writing was submitted to me by a colleague of mine, Kendall Marden, from our Sidney office. Kendall is a wildlife biologist, who has years of experience in that field. As some of you may know if you’ve been reading MDIF&Ws weekly reports, the weekly report is being changed to a monthly report. Kendall wrote this piece for that report, but forwarded it to me when the scheduling changed, ‘just in case [I] was looking for something to post for the blog’. Upon reading it my curiosity was piqued and I thought some other readers might enjoy it. You truly do learn new things every day!
“As a Wildlife Biologist, people tend to think that I should know everything about anything related to the outdoors. While I wish I did know everything, I am at least comforted that the same paradigm holds true for many professions. Somewhat humorously I like to often exclaim that “I know a little about a lot things”. I also often think about a random moment of my childhood that has stuck with me. At a young age, I was spending time in Belfast waiting to meet my father. Shortly after the 50 cents I had started to burn through my pants, I was exiting the local pet store, tenderly carrying a mouse in my pocket. I had decided an old aquarium at home would make a fine place for this little critter. During my wanderings, I stepped inside an old retail store and struck up a conversation with the elderly gentleman behind the counter. When he saw the mouse poking out of my pocket he asked curiously about it. After our conversation about the mouse, he used the old adage, “Well, you learn something new every day of your life!” That simple moment has continued to drift in and out of my memory for years.
So what’s the point of that little story, you ask? I thought I would share two interesting facts about deer that I was not fully aware of until recently. The first stemmed from a phone conversation with a cousin asking if “deer ate meat”. I incredulously started to respond with a resounding NO, until a fleeting thought popped into my head. “I have heard this before”, I thought. While we could not entirely disprove an unnoticed red squirrel or bird as the culprit, the evidence surrounding the missing offal from his earlier ice fishing success seemed to point to a deer as the animal that consumed it. I finally put my finger on that fleeting thought and confirmed that indeed a trustworthy friend had observed deer eating white sucker in a stream years ago. A little more research unveiled documentation of deer (and other wild cervids) opportunistically eating animal protein. Fish seem to be the most commonly consumed rarity, but young songbirds and eggs also have been reported as well. We all know that animal protein doesn’t compose a significant portion of a deer’s diet but, for some dietary need, they apparently occasionally do take the low hanging fruit, or fish, as the case may be.
Another occurrence recently involved a deer that died of unknown causes. Due to the circumstances, the responding warden contacted me so I could take a routine sample to rule out Chronic Wasting Disease. The more unusual part of this was the thousands of little bugs crawling all over the dead deer. I had never seen this bug before, albeit I had a suspect. Thanks to Bill Urquhart of Department of Conservation’s Entomology Lab, it was confirmed that this was in fact “Deer Lice”. It appears that the deer had a systemic infection which, coupled with a few other factors, led to starvation and its eventual demise. It is likely that due to all of the other problems this deer was dealing with, its grooming behavior wasn’t up to par and the presumed ubiquitous but infrequently seen lice found a perfect situation to thrive. Deer Lice have been documented across most of the continent and rarely affect the host animal. In extreme cases, an infestation can cause problems. This occurrence appears to be unrelated to a rash (no pun intended) of reports of deer with bald patches across parts Maine (and New England) that occurred this year. At the moment, we are not sure what caused those cases. As they appear to be isolated incidents, we are not working aggressively to diagnose them but, are looking into the situation opportunistically. When we do find out more about those cases I may be able to say, “Well, I learned something new today!””
Thank you, Kendall, for sending this along!